Warner Bros and Peter Jackson next week will try to hash out whether the $500 million budget for back-to-back The Hobbit films will stay in New Zealand or move elsewhere. Meetings are planned that will involve Prime Minister John Key. Here’s a terrific dispatch from New Zealand Close Up: it’s long but is well worth it because it puts Jackson and Philippa Boyens on the record, lays out the stakes, and gives a real sense of the backlash directed toward the New Zealand Actors Equity and Australian Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance for blacklisting Jackson and his pictures. There are certainly hard feelings but here’s my prediction: These things come down to leverage, and Warner Bros walks in with a lot of it. I bet the studio will emerge with a sweetened deal to stay. Estimates I’m hearing include incentives that shave $10 million to $15 million off the budget. Part of the charm of The Lord of the Rings was how it revealed New Zealand as a an epic location and tourism mecca, with Jackson also plowing a lot of his Rings profits into building state of the art facilities that have turned the country into a thriving film center. It just won’t be good karma to shoot elsewhere.
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